Interview with Rodney Gillis
by Reid Althage
LAFM: State your name and current affiliation with ULL?
My name is Rodney Gillis, and I am a former ULL Safety. I came on to the team as a CB, but then tore my ACL two consecutive years. After recovery, I was moved to Safety. I am a 3 time New Orleans Bowl winner. I majored in General Studies and graduated this past December. I am currently helping out with the coaching staff here at ULL.
LAFM: Where did you go to High School? Any Accolades?
I went to St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We are a 5A team in Florida. I played CB. My senior year I played in the Offense Defense All-American game. I was First Team All-County. I had 5 INT’s and 56 tackles.
LAFM: St. Thomas Aquinas one of the superior programs in Florida High School Football?
Yes, I mean I played with guys like Leonard Hankerson (Washington Redskins), Major Wright (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Wesley Carroll (Mississippi State, FIU), and a bunch of other really talented guys during my time at the school.
I made it to the Florida 5A Championship my junior year of high School but the game was stolen away from us. We were playing against Lakeland High who had Chris Rainey and the Pouncey twins. The game went into double over time. It was a very good tight game. Thankfully, we came back my senior year and won the championship.
LAFM: How did you end up at ULL?
The running back coach at that time, Coach Jenkins, recruited me for ULL. Before talking to him, I had never even really heard of the school. Once I came for a visit I realized I knew a couple of the people that were from my same area in Florida.
LAFM: Were you looking at any other schools? What schools offered you?
Yes, I had offers from Iowa, Toledo, and Central Michigan.
Talk about how you career developed at ULL. When did you first start playing, earn a starting spot, and so on?
I came in my freshman year and Redshirted. The following spring I tore my ACL which knocked me out for that season. The following season, I tore it again the week before we played Georgia in the season opener. My Junior year I finally got to play. I played in just about every game. Then finally my senior year I started for our team and started every game. This past year was my last year. It was my 6th year which was my medical year. I broke my leg in the 5th game of the season against Texas State and that was my last game for the Rajun Cajuns.
LAFM: Tell me about Head Coach Mark Hudspeth?
Coach Hud is a great guy. A great guy. He gets the best out of you. He pushes you to the next level in practice. He makes you turn your game up. Coach Hud pushes you in everything you do and really makes you work.
LAFM: How does it feel to be a three-time New Orleans Bowl winner? How about Tulane giving you guys a great fight this past year?
It feels Great! Ha! That is really all I can say. I am really proud to have won the bowl 3 times now.
I have to admit they were tough and came to play. It was a great game.
LAFM: What is your advice to high school students in regards to the recruiting process?
I would say do not go to a place just because of its name. You want to be the best and it is not taking anything away from you by not going to a big name. Lastly, do not let anyone else write your story for you. Write your own story. Everybody is the author of their own story.
LAFM: What are your plans now?
Well, I do want to coach. Lately, I have been doing some small training with high school kids. Just helping them workout and some technique stuff.
I eventually want to open up my own sports complex.
LAFM: Which people have had an influence you and your career as a player?
Starting off early, I would say it was my brother (Roderick Gillis II) and my dad (Roderick Gillis). They are the ones who taught me everything about football. I was always trying to play with my brother growing up. We would always go out to the field and my dad would work us out and do quickness drills. They pushed me to work hard.
Also, my high school DB Coach, Dwight McKenzie. He was the guy who taught me everything I know about the DB position. He came to practice to make us better everyday.
LAFM: Who are some of the best players you ever played with?
I would say one has got to be Bill Bentley (Detroit Lions). Melvin White (Carolina Panthers) is another one. Then when I first got here their was Derrick Smith (ULL WR 2005-2008), Tyrell Fenroy ( All-Time Rushing Record ULL), and Jason Cherry (NFL 2009-2011). All of those guys were great players.
LAFM: Do you think the brand of Louisiana football is different than anywhere else in the country? Can you compare it to Florida?
I would say it is different then the rest of the country. They have a lot of talent here in Louisiana. You know, in Florida I got to see a lot of great athletes and great talent. I would not say it is exactly even between us and Louisiana. I think Florida has a few more athletes than here in LA. Still, both states produce some great talent.
LAFM: Favorite game at ULL so far?
Wow, their are so many. One of my favorites has to be the homecoming Tulane game last year. Also, the Monroe game in Hud’s (Head Coach Hudspeth) first year is definitely one of my favorites. Only a couple minutes on the clock. Brett Baer kicks an on-side kick. The ball goes up in the air, Brad McGuire jumps up, tips it, Ladarius Green stops the ball from going out of bounds and picks it up. We get the ball, go down and score with barely any time left.
LAFM: How about those Rajun Cajun Fans?
We have the best fans in the world here. Playing at Cajun Field on a Saturday is the greatest feeling in the world. Their is nothing like it. Our fans are absolutely amazing.
LAFM: ULL has really become a great football program these last several years. What would you say are some of the bigger reasons for their recent success?
I think the biggest difference is we are more of a team. Our team is more of a brotherhood now. We stopped being individuals. These last few years no one has been selfish. Also, we focused on the small things like finishing games. Our coaches helped as well. Coach Hudspeth brought energy and a fight to the game. No matter what we are doing he is fired up and brings energy which in turn makes the players fired up. At the same time, our players had a great want and a great will. We wanted success and new we could do it.
LAFM: What makes ULL a great school and great football program?
I would say it is the people: the people around the program and the people in the program. I think everyone wants something great for our football program. Everyone knows where we started. I have seen us come from the ground and go up. A lot of that is due to the people involved with our program.